When Oakland A's switch-hitter Coco Crisp, batting left-handed in the ninth inning Saturday evening, lifted a Darren O'Day pitch over the right-field wall for a homer, it wasn't just an eventual game-winner.
It was also the continuation of a disturbing trend for the reliable O'Day.
The side-arming right-hander's difficulties against left-handed hitters continue.
"I'm just not commanding on that side of the plate, really," O'Day said. "I just have to be more refined with my control out there. If you throw pitches in the middle of the plate, it doesn't matter if they're left-handed or right-handed. They are going to hit it hard."
In O'Day's stellar 2012, he was baffling no matter who was at the plate. He held right-handers to a .201 average and lefties to a .205 average. It's a much different contrast in 2013. Right-handers are hitting .157 with two homers and seven walks allowed in 138 plate appearances. Lefties, though, are hitting .325 with five homers and six walks allowed in 87 plate appearances.
"Last year, my command was the best it has ever been," said O'Day, who needed just two pitches to induce a key double play — against a right-hander — in Sunday's eighth inning. "This year it seems like with that command, I'm getting righties out more than I ever have but I'm struggling more with lefties. I know what I have to do, and when I do execute pitches I get outs."
What he needs to do, he says, is throw strikes early so he can get left-handers chasing pitches. Crisp's homer, for instance, came on a 3-1 count.
"Against righties, obviously I have the advantage. If it is 2-0, I can still be in command," he said. "But against lefties, I have to be ahead in the count, I have to be attacking the strike zone and make them swing at pitches they don't want to swing at. When you get behind in the count like I did [Saturday], he can just sit there and wait on his pitch."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he believes O'Day is just in a recent funk versus lefties, but he still considers him someone that can be effective against all hitters.
"He actually improved a lot with the left-handed hitters over his initial career path, but this year has been a little different," Showalter said. "When he's right, he can attack both of them."
Showalter said he believes all of his current relievers can be effective against left-handed and right-handed hitters. That said, Showalter said he would expect the club to call up one or two left-handed relievers when rosters expand. Candidates include Mike Belfiore, who is on the 40-man roster, and Mark Hendrickson and Chris Jones, who are not.
O'Day said he hopes to be put in the situation where he continues to face multiple hitters.
"I see myself as a one-inning reliever. I don't see myself as a matchup type, so I need to be able to get lefties out," he said. "As long as I'm allowed to keep facing lefties, I'm going to figure it out."
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